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  1. #1

    Default Inner US Loop - Fall 2014

    This is the beginning of our Fall trip I am calling "Inner US Loop - Fall 2014". One of the goals of this trip is for me to complete visiting all of the National Park sites in the Lower 48. My husband accomplished this over the summer. I am shy twelve sites, mainly scattered within a loop covering the upper South and Central US. We expect the trip to last from 4-6 weeks, mostly dependent on weather. The furthest eastern point will be West Virginia. For the next week we will be making our way to Santa Fe where we will be attending a letterbox gathering. From there we will continue East with Arkansas as our first goal.

    Stay tuned. . .

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Thinking of you, envious of your ability to travel during shoulder seasons (but my turn will come when I retire, too....), and I wish you a Happy Road Trip!


  3. #3

    Default Prescott, AZ

    Saturday July 13, 2014
    Start: Tucson, AZ
    Finish: Lynx Lake campground (USFS), Prescott, AZ

    First day of the trip. Left home by 10 AM, stopped in Phoenix for several letterboxes and lunch. After finding four drive-by letterboxes in 100 degree heat we headed north to Prescott. Tried to get a set of smashed pennies in New River, but the machine was out of order. Stopped at a roadside produce stand, Mortimer's, in Dewey-Humboldt on AZ 69 for fresh corn. Drove by the fields full of tall, tasseled corn - yum!

    Arrived at Lynx Lake campground and Campground Full sign. About a month ago, knowing we'd be arriving on a Saturday, I made reservations for this site. Even a month ago there were only a few sites left, and only one back-in. At 5,000 feet elevation and only an hour and a half from Phoenix this is a popular place. It was 80 degrees and low humidity at 4 PM, with a gentle breeze. Enjoyed our first Happy Hour in camp with enough variety of birds to keep us entertained.

    Campsite 1st night -Lynx Lake, Prescott, AZ

    Sunday, September 14
    Start & Finish: Prescott, AZ

    Had breakfast at Lynx Lake Cafe - highly recommended. They are only open Thursday through Sunday, partial year. Check their website for opening/closing dates. Their food has a German flair. This morning I had a bratwurst as my meat choice. Dinner is served Thursday through Saturday night.

    Lynx Lake Cafe

    Our goal today was to hike a 4.5 plus mile trail which has 21 letterboxes honoring the firefighters from Prescott who died last year fighting a wildlands fire near here. 19 died and 1 survived, for 1 firefighter there were 2 boxes. An Arizona letterboxer sent out a request and received carved stamps from all over the US. It took us all day, from 9 to 3:30. The weather was good, a bit warmer than we would have liked, the low 80s.

    Horned Lizard

    We were pooped! So we headed into Prescott and enjoyed a cold brew and dinner at Prescott Brewing Company on the Courthouse Square. This has been a favorite of ours for many years. With a full tummy we headed back to camp to wait for bedtime!

    Wildlife Sightings
    Horned Lizard
    Garter snake

    Great-tailed Grackle
    Rock Dove
    Broad-tailed Hummingbird
    White-breasted Nuthatch
    Common Raven
    Acorn Woodpecker
    Northern Flicker
    Scrub Jay

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Great capture

    Horned toad seen on any trip is a omen of great adventure.


  5. #5

    Default Winslow, AZ

    Monday, September 15
    Start: Prescott, AZ
    Finish: Homolovi State Park, Winslow, AZ

    Great morning in camp, enjoyed watching the hummingbirds at our feeder in camp. Left camp and followed AZ 89A through Jerome, Clarkdale and Cottonwood. Stopped at Tuzigoot National Monument for their new 75th Anniversary bonus stamp. At bit warm in the Verde Valley.

    Last seen crossing AZ 89 A at mp 338, S of Jerome

    Another stop at Montezuma Castle for smashed pennies and their collection of bonus and passport stamps. Had lunch at Montezuma Well picnic area, shaded, but very busy for a Monday. Temperatures reaching mid-90s in the Verde Valley.

    Continued N on I-17 through Flagstaff, then E on I-40 to Winslow. We stopped at the Winslow Visitor Center, formerly the Hubbell Trading Post from the late 1880s. They were able to identify the 1910 Post Office in town. We knew where the 1935 Post Office was, is still the one in use today.

    Winslow Visitor Center

    Mural showing 1910 Post Office

    1910 Post Office-Winslow ( The Scoop)

    1935 Post Office -Winslow

    Ended the day at Homolovi State Park, NE of Winslow. A bit warm in the afternoon, but cooled off nicely. Lots of storm clouds all around us, lightning to the north. More hummingbirds at our feeder this evening.

    Evening sky

    Passport stamps
    Tuzigoot National Monument
    Montezuma Castle National Monument - Camp Verde, AZ

    Bonus stamps
    75th Anniversary 2008-2009 - WPA Excavation of Tuzigoot
    The Historic Tuzigoot Museum - 75th Anniversary 1936-2011
    Historic Tuzigoot Museum - Clarkdale 1936 Arizona
    Montezuma Castle National Monument - Historic Visitor Center 1960
    Arizona Centennial 1912-2012, Montezuma Castle
    Theodore Roosevelt 1858-1919, The National Parks: America's Best Idea

    Smashed Pennies
    Montezuma Castle National Monument - 4

    Wildlife Sightings

    Red-tailed Hawk
    House Finch
    Western Bluebird
    Broad-tailed Hummingbird
    White-breasted Nuthatch
    Lesser Goldfinch
    Common Raven
    Say's Phoebe

  6. #6


    As a fellow teacher I know you appreciate the pleasure of a Fall trip. Hang in there!

  7. #7

    Default Canyon de Chelly National Monument

    Tuesday, September 16
    Start: Winslow, AZ
    Finish: Cottonwood Campground (Navajo Nation), Canyon de Chelly NM, Chinle, AZ

    Lightning in the distance as we went to bee coast night, strong winds during the night, then breezy in the AM. Cool enough to sleep comfortably. After showers and breakfast continued east on I-40 to US191 north. In Ganado we stopped at the Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site, always a favorite place to visit. The back rooms of the Trading Post hold exquisite jewelry and rugs by local Native American artists. A great place to shop for authentic crafts. This past summer my sister was fortunate to be selected for a week long Artist-in Residence here. They stayed in the stone hogan pictured below.

    Hubbell Trading Post NHS - Stone Hogan

    Our primary goal today was to get to the Nazlini Post Office before their closing time at 2 PM. This is one of the few current Arizona postal cancellations my husband needs for his collection. Once leaving I-40 this AM we were an hour ahead, the Navajo Reservation in Arizona honors daylight savings time. The rest of Arizona does not change its clocks twice a year. This always causes confusion for tourists. We made it to Nazlini, with an hour to spare. This was definitely new road for us, Indian Route 27 through Nazlini all the way north into Chinle. Shortly after passing Nazlini it becomes dirt, an OK road in dry weather. It parallels US 191, and goes straight up a valley.

    Along IR 27 to Chinle

    Once in Chinle we stopped at the Canyon de Chelly National Monument visitor center. They have the standard passport stamps and 2 beautiful bonus stamps. I picked up the Junior Ranger program.

    Passport and Bonus stamps

    After getting a campsite at Cottonwood Campground we drove the South Rim road to the a Spider Rock Overlook. Besides the main feature of Spider Rock you can see ruins in the cliffs across the canyon.

    Spider Rock

    Ruins from Spider Rock Overlook

    Another view from Spider Rock Overlook

    We returned to the campground for a quiet, comfortable evening, upper 70s with nice shade. For years this campground was free, in recent years the Navajo Regional Parks have started to charge. Currently the price is $14. Restrooms are modern with sinks and flush toilets, the sites are paved with picnic tables and grills. Water faucets are scattered throughout the campground. It was about 1/4 full tonight.

    Passport Stamps
    Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site- Ganado, AZ
    Canyon de Chelly NM- Chinle, AZ
    Pictorials at Canyon de Chelly - 2

    Wildlife Sightings
    Side-blotched Lizard

    Common Raven
    Turkey Vulture
    Cliff Swallow
    House Sparrow
    Say's Phoebe

  8. #8

    Default Chaco Culture National Historical Park

    Wednesday September 17, 2014

    Start: Chinle, AZ
    Finish: Chaco Culture NHP, NM

    Woke up to a very light rain in camp, looks like we will be missing most of the heavy rain to the south. We enjoyed a tasty breakfast of Blue Corn pancakes at the Thunderbird Lodge cafeteria. We drove the North Rim Drive to Tsalie, then headed north on IR 12 to IR 13, through Lukachukai. This was new road for us and a beautiful drive on paved roads. It was steep and curvy at times, but the red rock and mountain habitat was beautiful. Any car or small RV could make the drive. This is a great way to link Canyon de Chelly NM or Window Rock to Shiprock, Farmington or our goal of Chaco Culture NHP.

    View along IR 13

    This road brings you to the community of Red Rock or Red Valley. My husband had conflicting information about whether there was an active post office. There was no USPS sign at the trading post, however when he went in there was a post office window. The clerk happily cancelled a stamped envelope with the Red Valley, AZ cancellation. From there we immediately crossed into New Mexico and came up behind the Shiprock formation.

    Shiprock along IR 13

    We drove up to Aztec Ruins National Monument for passport stamps and our picnic lunch. There was a most unusual pot in their visitor center, all white with white spikes. After getting fuel and food we continued south on US 550 past Nageezi to the turn off to Chaco Culture National Historical Park. This is the north road, and it appears it has been 'upgraded' quite a bit from previous visits. There is still 13 miles of dirt road, but no deep ruts, just a few slick areas from recent rains and several significant washboard sections. Any car can make the drive, however I realize rental agencies would not be happy to get a call if your vehicle broke down while there. I was surprised that there was enough cell service for text messaging.

    Aztec Ruins NM

    We had reservations for 2 nights at the park campground, Gallo campground. This night the campground was about 1/2 full. Very overcast when we arrived, you could see rain in the distance, however it never made it to camp.

    Thursday, September 18
    Start & Finish: Chaco Culture NHP

    Incredible night sky - clouds all gone and stars, stars and more stars! Woke up to cool air and a cloudless sky! The rest of the lower Southwest is getting intense rain from the Pacific hurricane. We seem to have been traveling on the northern edge of the storm, so far.

    All morning was spent in camp. Besides working on my Night Explorer program ( started last Fall while in the Rocky Mountain region) and the Chaco Junior Ranger booklet there were several ruins and petroglyph panels in the campground to explore.

    Ruins in campground

    After lunch we went back to the visitor center to have my booklets reviewed and to receive my Night Explorer patch and Chaco Junior Ranger Badge. From there we drove out to Pueblo Bonito for the ranger led walk. Excellent information was given during this walk through the pueblo.

    Pueblo Bonito
    Fine masonry walls - estimated 50 million stones cut & dressed at Chaco

    Spider web at 3rd story

    View through window

    Plaza view

    Returned to camp for initially a quiet afternoon. Around 6 PM a high school group of at 50 plus invaded the campground. Lots of energy expended as they set up camp.

    Passport Stamps
    Aztec Ruins NM - Aztec, NM
    Old Spanish NHT - Aztec Ruins National Monument, NM
    Chaco Culture NHP - Nageezi, NM
    Chaco Culture NHP pictorial

    Wildlife Sightings
    Cottontail Rabbit
    Plateau Striped Whiptail Lizard

    Common Raven
    Yellow-headed Blackbird
    Mourning Dove
    Canyon Towhee
    Sagebrush Sparrow
    Turkey Vulture

  9. #9

    Default Santa Fe, NM

    Friday, September 19

    Start: Chaco Culture NHP
    Finish: Black Canyon Campground, USFS, NE of Santa Fe

    Not too bad of a night , the kids settled in by 10 PM. Another clear sky with lots of stars. The moon is coming up in the morning so the stars are prominent. The kids and adults were headed out for the day when we woke up at 8 AM, so we enjoyed some quiet time in camp before heading back to civilization.

    Once back on US 550 we headed east, stopped for a couple of letterboxes. Right before we reached Cuba we turned north on NM 96, new road for us. We are heading to Santa. Fe, the Map app gave 2 options and this route was on 5 minutes longer. We knew the US 550 to I-25 would be busier and more congested. Turned out to be a very scenic drive, and very little traffic.

    We took a side trip up the Rio Grande Valley to Pilar, on NM 68, and the Rio Grande Visitor Center, run by the BLM. This year the New Mexico BLM has provided their own passport stamp, and even pages for the large Explorer Passport books. We returned down NM 68 to Espanola and then into Santa Fe. A stop for groceries and a shower at the city's Ft. Marcy Recreation Center. They now have a shower only fee of $2 for all ages. The center is basically set up like a YMCA, a locker room has private and open shower stalls.

    We then headed up canyon to the USFS Black canyon campground, a very favorite site. Each campsite has been well designed. Regular fee is $10, only $5 for Golden Age passport holders. This campground is only 15 minutes from the Santa Fe plaza.

    Black Canyon campsite

    We enjoyed a very quiet night in camp. Cooler than previous nights, but not too cool.

    Saturday, September 20
    Start & Finish: Black Canyon Campground, Santa Fe, NM

    Today was spent just up the road at Hyde a Memorial State Park at a letterboxing gathering. About 30 people from New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Texas spent a day wandering the trails looking for letterboxes. We started at 10 AM and finished at 4:30 PM, finding 27 boxes throughout the day, plus lots of visiting with new and old friends. The weather was extraordinary!

    Letterboxing gathering

    We spent the evening in camp taking it easy. Later a fellow Letterboxer from Tucson pitched her tent in our campsite.

    Sunday, September 21
    Start & Finish: Black Canyon Campground, Santa Fe, NM

    A bit tired from yesterday we took it easy in the morning. We spent another day letterboxing, some back at Hyde Memorial State Park and some up the road on beautiful trails. These trails were getting close to 9,000 feet, it was slow going, but worth the effort. Our finds for the day were 11 boxes! Another sunny, but temperate day - perfect hiking weather.

    Along the trails

    In the evening we met up with part of the group that had stayed over and enjoyed great beer, food and friends at Second Street Brewery (original site) in Santa Fe.

    Passport stamps
    Old Spanish NHT - Rio Grande Gorge Visitor Center, NM

    Rio Grande del Norte National a Monument - BLM New Mexico

    Friday - 2
    Saturday - 28
    Sunday - 12

    Wildlife Sightings
    Cottontail Rabbit
    Least Chipmunk
    Rock Squirrel

    Canyon Towhee
    Sagebrush Sparrow
    Common Raven
    Canada Goose
    Dark-eyed Junco, gray-headed form
    Acorn Woodpecker
    Steller's Jay
    American Robin

  10. #10

    Default Heading East - I-40 through New Mexico, Texas and into Oklahoma

    Monday, September 23
    Start: Santa Fe, NM
    Finish: Tucumcari, NM

    A few stops in Santa Fe before leaving. Found gas for $2.99! A section of the original Santa Fe Trail runs by Museum Hill which has the massive bronze statue celebrating Journey's End. Besides describing the event, one of the panels tells how this statute was cast and assembled. Unfortunately I deleted pictures I took here before I transferred them to My Photos. The website imbedded above has good photos and background information.

    Our next stop was at Pecos National Historical Park. Today was the first inclement weather - light rain off and on, at times a soaking rain. I had planned to spend more time here and work on the Junior Ranger program, but the weather was not conducive to exploring. We did drive up to the picnic area and did a quick walk around the ruins from the last church built in the early 1700s. This park has a stamp celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. Part of this park includes sections dedicated to Glorieta Pass, site of Civil War actions in March 1862. In the visitor center their display of pottery is impressive, many dating to the 1400s.

    Pecos National Historical Park - Mission Church

    While in Pecos we had lunch at Frankie's Casanova - Southwestern Grill. Green Chile Stew was perfect on this rainy day! From the outside it looked like a basic building, not so on the inside.

    Frankie's Casanova - Pecos, NM

    Not what I expected from the outside

    Eventually we needed to head SE, so at Las Vegas we exited I-25 on NM 104, new road for us. Outside of town we took a short detour to the Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge headquarters. Unfortunately the building was closed while staff were out on the refuge. We did see some of the birds listed below while out there.

    Back to NM 104 which at first drove through grasslands. At the town Trujillo the terrain changed dramatically. We found ourselves winding down along a canyon edge. To make things more interesting, besides rain and a curvy, narrow road, there was a boulder the size of a SmartCar in the northbound lane. Luckily no one was in that lane as we passed by. No cell service to call it in to the highway department. It was along a fairly straight section, marked at 25 mph, so it should be easy to avoid. A few miles down the highway we passed a highway yard, the gates were locked and it appeared no one was around.

    As we got close to Conchas Lake State Park we were pleasantly surprised, and pleased to see an Osprey perched on the side of the road. We arrived in Tucumcari, NM on I-40 and opted for a motel. Good choice, more rain into the evening.

    Tuesday, September 23
    Start: Tucumcari, NM
    Finish: El Reno, OK

    Here it comes - I-40! As you can tell from most of my posts we prefer to drive the Blue Highways - the 2 lane roads that show up blue on road maps, paper ones. But, sometimes you need to cover some ground. We are on our way to Arkansas for a couple of new National Park sites for me.

    One way to break up the trip is letterboxing. A short description is hunting for Tupperware. Actually, this is a world-wide hobby, or addiction, that began in SW England over 100 years ago at what is now Dartmoor National Park. Another description is the Luddite form of geocaching. With clues from the websites, listed below, you look for a container which includes a hand-carved stamp (sometimes commercial stamps) and a logbook. You carry your own personal stamp and logbook. At the box you stamp their logbook with your stamp and place their stamp in your logbook. Both websites are set up for you to 'log' your find, if you want. Kids love this activity. This hobby can be done on your own or with a group, like the gathering we attended this past weekend in a Santa Fe.
    The 2 websites that will further explain and lead you down a very fun way to travel;

    Typical contents of a Letterbox

    Of course while traveling along I-40 in New Mexico and Texas you are following alongside sections of Route 66. While looking for some letterboxes I took some photos of Route 66. For anyone interested my husband has a website with extensive links related to Route 66.

    New Mexico Route 66 - looking west towards Tucumcari

    Texas Route 66 - looking west at NM/TX border

    Slug Bug Ranch, along Route 66 in Conway, Tx

    Route 66 - Phillips 66, McLean, TX

    We ended the day at El Reno, OK, just west of Oklahoma City. We camped at El Reno Lake, near I-40. Saw about four new bird species around the lake. Tent sites are $5 per night and RV sites are either $15 or $20. The bathrooms in the West RV area include non-coin showers. The evening was breezy, but clear and lower 70s. Thoroughly enjoyable to sit outside until bedtime.

    Passport Stamps
    Santa Fe National Historic Tral - Santa Fe, NM
    El Camino Real de Tierra Adentre NHT - Santa Fe, NM
    Old Spanish NHT - public Lands Information Center, NM
    Old Spanish National Historic Trail - Santa Fe, NM
    Pecos NHP - Pecos, NM
    Pecos NHP - Route 66 pre-1937
    Pecos National Historical Park - 150th Anniversary of the Civil War

    New Mexico BLM
    Northern Rio Grande National Heritage Area

    Monday - 5
    Tuesday - 8

    Wildlife Sightings

    Red-tailed Hawk
    American Crow
    Common Raven
    Rufous Hummingbird
    Northern Flicker
    American Kestrel
    Mourning Dove
    Turkey Vulture
    Northern Harrier
    American Coot
    Northern Shoveler
    Dark-headed Junco
    Northern Harrier
    Greater Roadrunner
    Great-tailed Grackle
    Swainson's Hawk
    Great Egret
    Great Blue Heron
    Canada Goose
    Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

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